Media Releases

Umbilical cord cells outperform bone marrow cells

November 22, 2012

TORONTO, ON — When repair­ing dam­age from a heart attack, an injec­tion of cells derived from human umbil­i­cal cord tis­sue is bet­ter than one of cells derived from bone mar­row, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to researchers say.

Most stem cell ther­a­pies use cells har­vest­ed from bone mar­row to stim­u­late tis­sue repair and con­trol inflam­ma­tion. But a new study pub­lished in Cell Trans­plan­ta­tion found that, when inject­ed direct­ly into dam­aged heart tis­sue, cells orig­i­nat­ing from the tis­sues sur­round­ing the blood ves­sels of the human umbil­i­cal cord are supe­ri­or to those of mar­row.

“We’re hop­ing that this trans­lates into few­er peo­ple devel­op­ing com­pli­ca­tions of heart fail­ure because their mus­cle func­tion after a heart attack is bet­ter,” said Dr. Armand Keat­ing, Pro­fes­sor of Med­i­cine, Direc­tor, Divi­sion of Hema­tol­ogy and Epstein Chair in Cell Ther­a­py and Trans­plan­ta­tion, cross-appoint­ed to the Insti­tute of Bio­ma­te­ri­als and Bio­med­ical Engi­neer­ing (IBBME).

The study used stan­dard heart func­tion tests to mea­sure the effect of the ther­a­py after the cells were inject­ed. Umbil­i­cal cord cells improved car­diac func­tion by 40% com­pared with no treat­ment, while bone mar­row cells improved func­tion by only 18.3%. The umbil­i­cal cord cells were 120% more effec­tive in improv­ing heart func­tion than bone mar­row cells — a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence, researchers said.

The results could rep­re­sent a par­a­digm shift for stem cell research, researchers said, because the umbil­i­cal cord is a tis­sue typ­i­cal­ly dis­card­ed after birth.

Keat­ing, direc­tor of the Cell Ther­a­py Pro­gram at the Princess Mar­garet Can­cer Cen­tre and Uni­ver­si­ty Health Net­work (UHN), said he hopes to begin clin­i­cal tri­als of the HUCPVC cells on patients with­in the next 12 to 18 months.

He is also inter­est­ed in con­duct­ing fur­ther research with the umbil­i­cal cord cells to over­come the dam­ag­ing effects of chemother­a­py on heart tis­sue, an ago­niz­ing prob­lem for some patients who may be cured of their can­cer only to con­front heart fail­ure as a result of treat­ment.

There are cur­rent­ly more than 250 clin­i­cal tri­als being con­duct­ed world­wide using stem cells to inves­ti­gate the treat­ment of a vari­ety of dis­eases, includ­ing a seri­ous com­pli­ca­tion of bone mar­row trans­plan­ta­tion called graft-ver­sus-host dis­ease, autoim­mune dis­or­ders, neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­eases and tis­sue injury aris­ing from lung and liv­er dis­ease.

Tis­sue Regen­er­a­tion Ther­a­peu­tics (TRT), the Toron­to-based com­pa­ny that cre­at­ed the tech­nol­o­gy plat­form for man­u­fac­tur­ing the cells, pro­vides cells to lead­ing researchers around the world free of charge.

“We have a com­pre­hen­sive fam­i­ly of inter­na­tion­al patents to pro­tect this impor­tant cell source,” says IBBME Pro­fes­sor J.E. Davies, and Pres­i­dent of TRT.

A pio­neer in this rel­a­tive­ly new field, Davies filled his first patent, a spe­cial method of extract­ing this cell pop­u­la­tion, in 2003. Once iso­lat­ed, the cell pop­u­la­tions are grown to accom­mo­date the research.


Erin Vol­lick, PhD
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Offi­cer
Insti­tute of Bio­ma­te­ri­als and Bio­med­ical Engi­neer­ing (IBBME)
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Office: 416.946.8019